Executives of the Week — Adam Tiran and Yoann Chapalain

by TurnTable Charts

Jun 2, 2024, 6:34:27 PM

Sensational music gain worldwide recognition without struggles or delays. And so is the case of “Tshwala Bam”, an Amapiano genre music by TitoM and Yuppe that is on the lips of everyone everywhere in the world. To cap it all, it is accompanied by a TikTok routine dance leading to an exhilarating energy among people. The extent of the “Tshwala Bam” virality is evident on all social media platforms as almost every post includes the song. 

The “Tshwala Bam Remix”  featuring Grammy award winner Burna Boy holds 17.1 million+ on-demand streams, with the original version having more streams and certified platinum. The song is still spending 7 weeks in the Top10, including 1 week at No. 1. and a total of 13 weeks on the chart. This incredible performance earns Adam Tiran and Yoann Chapalain the Executives of the Week titles. Adam Tiran is a British-South African executive and label owner who has spent the past eleven years helping to build the African music ecosystem. He is also a DJ with solid experience in distribution, licensing, publishing, marketing, and artiste development. Adam Tiran is the Director of Operations and International Lead at Africori, who has developed the careers of creatives like Master KG, Bien, Sjava, Blxckie, Marioo, and Rexxie. Aside from these, he is also the founder of Outer South, a record label and creative hub that houses talents such as Tim Lyre & Suté Iwar.

Yoann Chapalain is the Label Manager and A&R at Africori, with over eight years of experience in artiste management and A&R. He’s a seasoned French music executive based in South Africa with a deep-rooted passion for the African music industry. Yoann Chapalain handles the likes of TitoM & Yuppe, Kamo Mphela, Kelvin Momo, and Makhadzi, while also being the lead for Francophone Africa.

This interview borders on their personal experiences in managing artistes, their joint and individual contributions towards the growth of African music as well as the challenges faced and overcome. 

TTC: Career Path: Can you tell us about your journey in the music industry? What initially drew you to working behind the scenes with artistes?

ADAM: I started DJing in London while I was studying, so sharing music and connecting the dots between sounds has always been the goal –but my career started with Africori 11 years ago when I joined as a founding employee, and ever since I’ve been on this journey to empower African artistes. In 2021, I launched Outer South, a label focused on developing artistes in the Afro-fusion scene.

YOANN: Started to work in music as management, the main reason was to help an artiste I was close to, and the success the artiste had, opened my doors to work in new spaces, including Africori. So I would say it was initially genuine, just wanting to help talented artistes.

TTC: Vision for African Music: Africori plays a significant role in shaping the African music landscape. What is your vision for the future of African music on a global stage?

ADAM: It’s always been Africa first. The initial goal was simply to help artistes be able to eat off their digital sales. Now we’re living in a world where all eyes are on the continent and anything is possible. The pace with which the continent reinvents its own sounds is rapid, so right now we’re talking about afrobeats and amapiano on the global scale, and there is plenty of work still to do here, but the pathways are established now for future sounds to travel outside. Continuing to connect Africa’s creatives to communities all over the world remains the goal.

YOANN: My personal vision is to reduce the gap between the different markets, make the world smaller, and build the right bridges in which African artistes can fully expose their talent and fully benefit from it. They have to be in control of the process and drive the A&R to impose their sound to the rest of the world.

TTC: The Executive Questions: Can you describe your typical workday as a music executive? What are some of the most important qualities or skills for success in this field?

ADAM: Plenty of meetings, artistes will pop by the office every day, always making time for listening and the occasional studio session. Maintaining a good balance between the creative and operational parts of the business is key. Everything we do, it’s a team effort.

YOANN: The work day is nonstop, as the business is lacking management, you wake up with inboxes full of messages. What's important is to balance your day, to still keep time for the music. Most important is your love for music, it's not just a job. You have to be a people person and give time to artistes and their teams. Listen to the younger artistes constantly, always knowing music keeps changing.


TTC: Limitations: In your experience, what are some of the unique challenges and opportunities facing African music today?

ADAM: Interconnectivity within the continent is still holding us back –the lack of flight routes and the expense of travelling between African countries is a huge factor as to why there isn’t more collaboration. The visa situation for Africans travelling to Europe, the UK, and the US is massively over-complicated and a barrier to entry.

For Adam Tiran:

TTC: Building Talent: You've played a key role in developing the careers of numerous successful African artistes like Master KG and Blxckie. What strategies do you use at Africori to identify and nurture up-and-coming talent?

ADAM: Every artiste requires a different strategy, but the key element is finding artistes who are building their own dedicated communities through their music and the culture around it. Artistes need to be relevant at home first, but we’re also always on the lookout for those with international potential in their sound and character. Amongst the team, we’re continuously talking about what’s new with eyes fixed on the future and each of us has an individual taste that we specialise in. These days, we occupy the space somewhere between a distro and a label, but we operate with a heavy passion for artiste development and A&R.

TTC: Independent Spirit: Balancing your work at Africori with your independent label, Outer South, allows you a unique perspective. How do these two roles complement each other in supporting artistes and the Afro-fusion scene?

ADAM: I’m heavily driven by artiste development and I launched Outer South in 2021 to find and nurture talent at an earlier stage in their careers and in somewhat alternative spaces –particularly the afro-fusion scene which I’m a big champion for. Despite sometimes being on the fringes at home, the sound has huge international potential so we focus as much on Nigeria as we do on the UK and Europe in developing our artistes. There’s a strong alternative angle to what we do, and I think alternative music is an incredibly important part of a healthy scene. Ultimately, we’re set out on releasing timeless music.

TTC: Challenges & Breakthrough: Among the artistes you've helped develop, is there a specific story of overcoming a challenge or achieving a breakthrough that you'd like to share?

ADAM: Not one in particular, but more generally it’s just to note that artiste development is a long-term game. I’ve worked with Tim Lyre for more than five years and the journey has been full of challenges, as it is with every artiste, but I can safely say we’re now in a place where Tim Lyre is regarded as a uniquely talented artist with audiences all over the world and one of the best writers in Nigeria. Sometimes, it can take the world longer to catch on, sometimes you need to search out different audiences, and maintaining patience throughout the process is key but trusting your gut is essential. We focus on the wins more than the challenges. Suté Iwar making it onto the cover of Apple Music’s Africa Now last year when we dropped his album ‘ULTRALIGHT’ felt like a watershed moment for afro-fusion and our community.

For Yoann Chapalain:

TTC: A&R Expertise: "Tshwala Bam" by TitoM & Yuppe was a phenomenal success under your guidance at Africori.

  • Walk us through the A&R process for this song. What made you believe in its potential?

YOANN: Honestly, we all knew the song would be a hit before it dropped. Yuppe and TitoM leaked the song on socials in January, and it was going crazy, like ridiculous crazy. So based on the stats pre-release and the reaction of the crowd when DJs started to play it, it was a no-brainer. Tito and Yuppe finished the song and we rushed the release to keep the momentum going.

  • What creative decisions were made to shape its success?

YOANN: We constantly changed the plan around the song, to make sure we match new expectations based on the success and the stats around the world. The idea of the remix was planned before the release, just wanted to have the perfect feat to it, which I think we do. Amapiano artistes do not always shoot visuals for their songs, so we also made sure to come up with content as the success is both based on the song and visuals on socials. We are still cooking and making new decisions to take it further.

TTC: Breaking Barriers: You lead Francophone Africa efforts at Africori. Can you share some strategies the label uses to introduce African artistes to new markets across French-speaking regions?

YOANN: As Africori, we only represent and work with African talents, and always actively try to make them work together. We treat the French-speaking regions the same way we do with the others. Trying to make them send each other demos, encourage remixes, and put them in the same spaces when they have the opportunity to travel. We sometimes do camps with producers and songwriters from different regions. There are more than 20 countries in Africa that share French as one of their languages, you can't claim an African success and exclude them from any of your plans.

Shared Success:

TTC: "Tshwala Bam" Phenomenon: "Tshwala Bam" achieved platinum status and dominated the charts. From both your perspectives, what do you attribute to the song's widespread appeal and success within the Afro-fusion genre?

ADAM: Firstly, the song itself is just a smash. The simple ear-worm melody, the fierce production, and the dance challenge have all contributed to its virality. It’s just an incredible record that grabs you by the neck every time you hear it. But it’s also all about timing. Tshwala Bam is part of the Amapiano continuum, which itself is part of a long legacy of sounds that have come before it. This record was a huge team effort and we have to mention the immense contributions of Selina Chowdhury, Temi Adeniji, Amber Agoro, Josh Haizie, Manasseh Kali, Devon Petersen, Nqubeko Nonto and Yoel Kenan. As a continent, we’ve been working towards this moment for years, decades. In Amapiano, we’ve had “Mnike”, “Dalie” and now, “Tshwala Bam” and whatever comes next will take over the world all over again. The world is primed for it now.

YOANN: Amapiano is probably the fastest-growing genre in Africa. People are now used to the sound and it helps to spread it easily. The TikTok short content success and the dance challenge were the main drives of the song, it achieved over 13 billion views so far on TikTok. The other drive for me is the beautiful melody and bassline from Tito and Yuppe (kick, bass, log drum). The beat stands out, with a perfect arrangement and exceptional production. Then, the S.N.E and eEque 's vocals flow and melody are also perfect. The combination of those makes the song undeniable and stands out.

Bonus Question:

TTC: Advice:

  • What advice would you give to aspiring music executives who are passionate about African music?

ADAM: Learn from every situation. Ask questions. Build your network at every opportunity. Be outside when you need to and keep your head down when you need to. Rep your home and never stop listening to the kids.

YOANN: Work hard! And it's not about you, it's always about the artiste and the music.

  • Many talented artistes dream of breaking into the industry. What key piece of advice would you offer to aspiring musicians in Africa today?

ADAM: Stay true to your sound but keep an open mind. Collaborate all the time. Find your community and build your audience, wherever they are. It can be TikTok, WhatsApp groups, or mailing lists, just make sure you cultivate a rabid fanbase and the rest will fall into place.

YOANN: Everything first happens in the studio, be creative and keep pushing. You are the one who can make a hit, we're just here to help.

  • Looking back at your career, what accomplishment are you most proud of?

ADAM: What we’ve built with Africori over the last decade still blows me away most days. We’re one part of a bigger movement, and I’m proud of the role I’ve been lucky to play in putting African music on the map.

YOANN: As a whole, I would say seeing some life drastically changing, seeing some people travelling for the first time because of their talent, and making a difference in their family.


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